ZHYTOMYR, Ukraine -- Ukrainian authorities have defended the arrests of four well-known Belarusian opposition activists on drug charges, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.
Ihar Koktysh, Tatsyana Koktysh, Vital Tsishchanka, and Artsyom Dubsky were detained in the central Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr on November 3 together with a Ukrainian woman, Iryna Tyutyunnik, at Tyutyunnik's apartment, on suspicion of illegal possession of drugs.
Tyutyunnik phoned the local newspaper "20 Minutes" and told journalists that police entered her apartment, saying they were looking for a wanted criminal. Instead of checking the identity of her guests, however, they searched the apartment and found a packet of green powder which Tyutyunnik says was planted.
When two correspondents from "20 Minutes" arrived at the apartment, police took away their cameras and tape recorder by force.
But Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesman Dmytro Andreyev told journalists in Kyiv on November 4 that police had acted on information that people in the apartment were involved in illegal drugs consumption and distribution.
He said police "conducted a search in an apartment in the city of Zhytomyr and found a packet with 10 grams of a substance that resembled marijuana."
Everyone in the apartment at the time of the search was arrested, Andreyev said. He said the search was conducted as a part of an investigation into illegal drug-trafficking in the region.